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John Kelly Is More Proof There Are No Good Apples in the Trumpian Bunch

February 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

They're all rotten, or they wouldn't be there in the first place.


Every day is a lesson with the Trump administration, and every day the lesson is the same: there are no secretly decent people working in this White House. Everyone helping further the Trump agenda took the job because they’re as immoral as the man they signed up to work for. The righteous Trump adviser discreetly Jedi-mind-tricking honorable decisions from a dishonorable man is a media-conjured fantasy. Still somehow, when he took on the role of Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly was dubbed the “adult in the room” by a press endowed with an endless capacity for wishful thinking.

The title didn’t even jibe with Kelly’s performance in his most recent job, a six-month stint as the head of Homeland Security. While leading the department, Kelly proved Trump’s trusty anti-immigration collaborator, demanding ICE agents criminalize immigrants to scaremonger support for raids; proposing immigrant children be ripped from their parents; and seething through a speech in which he advised politicians critical of his ramped-up deportation policies to “change the laws” or “shut up.” (A subsequent line that could make Stephen Miller’s dead eyes momentarily flicker declared the U.S. under attack from multitasking immigrant boogeymen “raping young girls at knifepoint, dealing poison to our youth, or killing just for fun.”) And after presenting Trump with a ceremonial saber at a Coast Guard event, a hot mic caught Kelly joking that the president could “use that on the press, sir.”

It should have been obvious that Kelly’s promotion to chief of staff was a high-five for a job well done and confirmation of his wholehearted support for Trump’s far-right views. Instead, Kelly’s firing of the “Mooch” was treated as evidence of his moderate credentials that outweighed his resume. Kelly reportedly kicked off his tenure by suggesting the number of refugees let into the country be lowered to “between zero and one.” Within 90 days of his appointment, he had fabricated an easily discredited story intended to make a black congresswoman look bad, while in a self-contradictory bit of political theater, he simultaneously …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Terrorist Attack That Failed to Derail the 1988 Seoul Olympics

February 9, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Wreckage of Korean Air flight 858. (Credit: Park Chang-gi/Yonhap via AP)

On November 29, 1987, two North Korean spies boarded a South Korean plane in Baghdad. The pair had used fake names and forged passports to pose as Japanese tourists. They’d also convinced security to let them keep the batteries in their carry-on “radio,” which they’d turned on to demonstrate to security that it was harmless.

Except it wasn’t. The working “radio” was also a battery-powered bomb.

The spies planted it in an overhead bin, then exited the plane at a layover in Abu Dhabi. Once Korean Air Flight 858 was back in the air, the bomb exploded and killed all 115 people on board, most of them from South Korea. The authorities tracked down the spies, who tried to commit suicide with cyanide cigarettes. One of them died; the other survived and was extradited to South Korea—the same country where the Olympics were set to begin in 10 months.

Even though the bombing occurred nearly a year before the Olympics, Sergey Radchenko, a professor of international relations at Cardiff University in Wales, says he has “no doubt” the attack “was an effort to sabotage the Games.” He explains that North Korea was interested in creating an “atmosphere of fear that would force the IOC to move the Games somewhere else,” or at least to discourage other countries, like its allies, from attending.

Wreckage of Korean Air flight 858. (Credit: Park Chang-gi/Yonhap via AP)

The CIA had been worrying about the danger North Korea posed to the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul long before the Korean Air bombing. However, the attack sparked new concerns in the intelligence agency.

“[The North Korean capital of] P’yongyang’s public threats against the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics and its sabotage of a South Korean airliner last November clearly point to North Korea as the greatest challenge to the security of the Games,” the CIA wrote on May 3, 1988, in a now declassified memo. “Seoul is taking extensive precautions to prevent violence and agent infiltrations, but international air links to South Korea remain vulnerable to sabotage or to serving as transportation for terrorists.”

Thirty years later, the possibility of a North Korean attack during the Olympics is still a concern. For the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, the country will deploy <a target=_blank …read more

Source: HISTORY

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John Kelly's Response to the Rob Porter Scandal Is So Slimy

February 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Brendan Gauthier, AlterNet

Kelly just wants to save his own skin.


White House Chief of Staff John Kelly gave staffers in a Friday meeting a revised account of his response to allegations that former staff secretary Rob Porter physically and emotionally abused two ex-wives, according to a Washington Post report.

“Kelly told those in attendance to say that he took action to remove Porter within 40 minutes of learning that abuse allegations … were credible,” two anonymous sources in attendance relayed to The Post: “He told the staff he took immediate and direct action.”

The narrative Gen. Kelly pushed Friday runs counter to reports that he kept Porter on staff despite knowledge of the allegations, which prevented him from gaining permanent security clearance from the FBI back in November.   

Porter—who resigned on Wednesday—is reportedly involved romantically with White House communications director Hope Hicks, for whom his second ex-wife, Jennie Willoughby, says she’s worried.

“I mean, it definitely worries me because if I’m being frank with you, if he hasn’t already been abusive with Hope, he will,” Willoughby told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday. “And particularly now that he’s under a lot of stress and scrutiny. That’s when the behaviors come out. If he hasn’t already, he will.”

“We certainly wish him well,” President Trump told press in the Oval Office on Friday, calling Porter’s resignation “obviously a tough time for him” and stressing that he’s denied all allegations.

“And hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him,” he added. “But it was very sad when we heard about it. And certainly he’s very sad.”

 

Related Stories

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Mark Thornton: Is the Bust Here?

February 9, 2018 in Economics

By Mark Thornton, Jeff Deist

Mises Weekends with Jeff Deist

By: Mark Thornton, Jeff Deist

With stock markets in turmoil earlier this week, the Mises Institute’s resident expert on booms and busts joins Jeff Deist to make sense of it. Will new Fed Chair Jerome Powell do everything possible to prop up markets, or will he be more hawkish than Janet Yellen? What kinds of indicators does Mark look for to predict trouble (hint: it’s not the VIX). Why does the volume of margin loans matter, and why is the Russell 2000 Index a better predictor than the Dow or Nasdaq? Are cryptocurrencies now bound up with macro trends? And is Austrian business cycle theory necessarily incomplete as a tool to help investors?

See Mark Thornton’s 2004 article “Housing: Too Good to be True”.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Why Are North and South Korea Divided?

February 9, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Map of the Korean peninsula including North and South Korea. (Credit: Filo/Getty Images)

As all eyes turn to South Korea for the opening of the Winter Olympic Games, held in the resort city of Pyeongchang, drama continues to swirl around the unexpected participation of North Korea, its hermetic and often hostile neighbor.

Though North and South Korea have agreed to march under one flag and share one hockey team for the benefit of these “Peace Olympics,” they have been divided for more than 70 years, ever since the Korean Peninsula became an unexpected casualty of the escalating Cold War between two rival superpowers: the Soviet Union and the United States.

A Unified Korea

For centuries before that point, the peninsula was a single, unified Korea, ruled by generations of dynastic kingdoms. Occupied by Japan after the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and formally annexed five years later, Korea chafed under Japanese colonial rule for 35 years—until the end of World War II, when its division into two nations began.

“The catalyzing incident is the decision that was made—really, without the Koreans involved—between the Soviet Union and the United States to divide Korea into two occupation zones,” says Michael Robinson, professor emeritus of East Asian Studies and History at Indiana University, who has written extensively on both modern Korea and its history.

Map of the Korean peninsula including North and South Korea. (Credit: Filo/Getty Images)

Why Was Korea Divided?

In August 1945, the two allies “in name only” (as Robinson puts it) divided control over the Korean Peninsula. Over the next three years (1945-48), the Soviet Army and its proxies set up a communist regime in the area north of latitude 38˚ N, or the 38th parallel. South of that line, a military government was formed, supported directly by the United States.

While the Soviet policies were widely popular with the bulk of the North’s laborer and peasant population, most middle-class Koreans fled south of the 38th parallel, where the majority of the Korean population resides today. Meanwhile, the U.S.-supported regime in the South clearly favored anti-communist, rightist elements, according to Robinson.

“The ultimate objective was for the Soviet Union and the United States to leave, and let the Koreans figure it out,” he explains. “The trouble was that the Cold War intervened….And everything that was tried to create a middle ground or to try to reunify the peninsula is thwarted by both the Soviet Union and the United States not wanting to give in to the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Grassley Letter Everyone Is Ignoring Is Way More Important Than the Nunes Memo

February 9, 2018 in Economics

By Julian Sanchez

Julian Sanchez

It hasn’t been built up by weeks of hype or a fevered social
media campaign, but a letter from Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey
Graham
—sent to the Justice Department in January, and
released in declassified form this week—may be more
significant than the now-infamous #memo #released by Rep. Devin
Nunes earlier this month.

The Grassley letter and the Nunes memo both deal with the same
thing: The FBI’s surveillance of former Donald Trump adviser Carter
Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the role
of a controversial dossier on links between Trump and the Russian
government compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. But
while the Nunes memo has largely been greeted with justified
ridicule, the Grassley letter makes a more direct and serious case
that the FISA warrant targeting Page may have been issued on
insufficient grounds—while at the same time undermining key
aspects of Nunes’ argument.

Grassley’s letter pokes holes in the one truly significant
claim made in the Nunes memo: That the FBI improperly concealed
from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the Steele
dossier was part of opposition research underwritten by the
Democratic National Committee. Grassley’s letter confirms the
accuracy of the counter almost immediately offered by intelligence
committee Democrats: That the application did, in fact, disclose
that the dossier’s funders were politically motivated.

More than that, it makes clear that not specifically naming the
DNC was not some aberrant omission, but the result of the common
intelligence practice of obfuscating the identities of people who
aren’t under suspicion. Glenn Simpson of the research firm
Fusion GPS, who directly hired Steele, is referenced only as an
“identified U.S. person.” Even Steele himself does not
appear to have been named: The ambiguous pronoun
“his/her” is used to avoid specifying a gender for the
dossier’s author. The judges who reviewed the application
almost certainly would have recognized Page as an adviser to Trump
and inferred that opposition research concerning him was likely
funded by Democrats—and could easily have asked if they
thought it was necessary to clarify.

But when it comes to the broader question of whether the FISA
wiretap order on Page was adequately grounded in evidence, the
Grassley letter provides more serious grounds for doubt, directly
making several key claims that the Nunes memo only insinuates.
Critically, Grassley and Graham assert that the Steele dossier
formed the “bulk” of the FISA application, and as
important, that the application “appears to contain no
additional information corroborating the dossier allegations
against Mr. Page,” and that the FBI “relied more
heavily on Steele’s credibility than on any independent
verification or corroboration for his claims.”

If the Grassley letter is
accurate, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Republicans Have a Sinister New Way of Cutting Social Security

February 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Liz Posner, AlterNet

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It’s a classic Trojan horse scenario—one they've been using a lot lately.


They’re a cunning lot, these elected Republican officials. In their latest plot to revoke the fundamental benefits that have saved millions of seniors from falling into poverty, Republicans are now looking for ways to bribe Americans into forgoing their government-guaranteed retirement security.

Case in point: Ivanka Trump and Marco Rubio recently unveiled their plan to provide parental leave to Americans who choose to postpone retirement age and forgo Social Security payments. It's a clear attempt to chip away at Social Security, a long-standing target of the GOP.

Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, expressed dismay with the plan, saying, “It's well past time for our country to join the rest of the world in providing workers with paid family and medical leave. But we should not undermine our retirement security to achieve it.”

This isn’t the first time Republicans have suggested Americans cut into their future Social Security benefits to pay for immediate needs. Rep. Tom Garrett's similarly ridiculous proposal to “solve” the student debt crisis would allow young people struggling with college loan debt to stall their Social Security benefits until later on in life in exchange for loan forgiveness.

Progressives were outraged when Garrett announced his plan. Melissa Byrne, a former Bernie Sanders staffer and candidate for DNC vice-chair, told AlterNet, “Rep. Garrett's plan is simply a fancy fraud on young people trying to start their lives….Social Security is a promise and no one should be able to limit that promise.”

The Garrett plan and the Ivanka-Rubio scheme are clearly linked. Social Security advocates have noticed that while Republicans are perfectly happy to continue direct attacks on Medicare, they’ve learned that Social Security will be much …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Meet the Real-Life Family Behind “Little Women”

February 9, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Louisa May Alcott, circa 1870. (Credit: Glasshouse Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

Louisa May Alcott had come to Europe to rest. But even in the Swiss Alps, the author couldn’t escape the thing that had exhausted her in the first place: her fans.

Her latest book, Little Women, was a runaway bestseller—and the constant barrage of fan mail, the visits and the demands on her time had wrecked her already delicate health. “Don’t send me any more letters from so cracked girls,” she begged her mother in a letter from Switzerland in 1870. “The rampant infants must wait.”

The “infants” were Louisa’s fans, and ever since the publication of Little Women, they had bombarded her with letters asking for a sequel and demanding to know how much of the book was autobiographical—a question readers still pose today. Louisa had captured the world’s imagination with her tale of the brave, beloved March family, and Little Women—a book about the Civil War–era lives of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March, four sisters who struggle with life, love and friendship—has never been out of print. But Louisa’s real-life family, upon whom the book was partly based, was infinitely more complicated—and even more interesting.

Louisa May Alcott, circa 1870. (Credit: Glasshouse Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

Born in Pennsylvania in 1832, Louisa May Alcott was one of four sisters, the daughters of Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail “Abba” Alcott. Bronson, a self-educated Romantic, left his Connecticut home as a teenager to become a Yankee peddler, a type of traveling salesman. Life on the road suited the idealistic, optimistic Bronson, but he was a bad salesman and soon found himself in debt. This began a pattern of financial mismanagement and poverty that would haunt him the rest of his life.

Even though Bronson couldn’t handle money, he was passionate and idealistic—high-minded ideals attracted the young Abigail May. Born into relative wealth and social prestige as the daughter of a prominent New England family, Abba was drawn to Bronson’s love of education and social justice. The couple married in 1830.

Where Bronson was absent-minded, Abba was practical. When her husband’s schools failed because of his controversial, student-focused teaching methods, she lent him moral support. When he infuriated parents by admitting an African-American student to his Boston school, she stood by him. And when he immersed himself in Transcendentalism—a new progressive philosophical movement that emphasized self-reliance, imagination, and …read more

Source: HISTORY

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From Abortion to Circumcision, Democracy Won't Save Minorities from the Majority

February 9, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

president.PNG

By: Ryan McMaken

The UK Independent reported last week that legislators in Iceland have proposed a ban on circumcision of boys. In practice of course, a ban on male circumcisions essentially outlaws Judaism. Anticipating opposition from advocates for religious freedom, the legislation “insists the ‘rights of the child’ always exceed the ‘right of the parents to give their children guidance when it comes to religion’.”1

Iceland is not alone in considering laws that pit the majority against the allegedly barbaric practices of a minority group. 

In the Netherlands, for example, animal rights activists are hard at work trying to outlaw kosher and halal meats. 

Meanwhile, in Quebec, lawmakers have recently prohibited the use of head coverings by — presumably Muslim — women in certain public places. 

Nor is the circumcision debate limited to Iceland. Male circumcision has been on shaky legal ground in Germany in recent years where a court banned the practice in 2012. Perhaps recognizing that banning Judaism could look bad for German “tolerance,” lawmakers intervened to allow the practice again. 

For the subjects of this regulation, the activities being targeted are no mere preferences. They touch on fundamental values, and they present a clear conflict with other value systems. In cases such as these, where there is no apparent room for compromise, whose values ought to prevail? 

Democracy Doesn’t Always Work

Throughout most of the West, of course, we’re all taught from an early age that “democracy” will allow everything to work itself out. The parties in conflict will enter into “dialogue,” will arrive at a “compromise” and then everyone will be happy and at peace in the end. 

But, that’s not how it works in real life. While there some areas for compromise that can be found around the edges of issues such as moral values and ethnic identity, the fact is that in the end, kosher meats are either legal or they’re not. Circumcision is either legal or it’s not. Abortion is either legal or it’s not. Muslim head coverings are either legal or they’re not. 

After all, if one group of people believe that a 3-month-old fetus is a parasite that has trespassed against the mother, those people are going to find little room for compromise with a group of people who think the same fetus is a …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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When Democracy Fails — And There Is No Compromise

February 9, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

president.PNG

By: Ryan McMaken

The UK Independent reported last week that legislators in Iceland have proposed a ban on circumcision of boys. In practice of course, a ban on male circumcisions essentially outlaws Judaism. Anticipating opposition from advocates for religious freedom, the legislation “insists the ‘rights of the child’ always exceed the ‘right of the parents to give their children guidance when it comes to religion’.”1

Iceland is not alone in considering laws that pit the majority against the allegedly barbaric practices of a minority group. 

In the Netherlands, for example, animal rights activists are hard at work trying to outlaw kosher and halal meats. The laws will, as one Jewish activist noted ”make Europe more uncomfortable for Jews, because the essence and centrality of our life are our ancient traditions.” 

Meanwhile, in Quebec, lawmakers have recently prohibited the use of head coverings by — presumably Muslim — women in certain public places. 

Nor is the circumcision debate limited to Iceland. Male circumcision has been on shaky legal ground in Germany in recent years where a court banned the practice in 2012. Perhaps recognizing that banning Judaism could look bad for German “tolerance,” lawmakers intervened to allow the practice again. 

In cases such as these, whose values ought to prevail? 

Democracy Doesn’t Always Work

Throughout most of the West, of course, we’re all taught from an early age that “democracy” will allow everything to work itself out. The parties in conflict will enter into “dialogue,” will arrive at a “compromise” and then everyone will be happy and at peace in the end. 

But, that’s not how it works in real life. With issues based on fundamental moral values, there often is very little room for compromise. While there some areas for compromise can often be found around the edges of issues such as these, the fact is that in the end, kosher meats are either legal or they’re not. Circumcision is either legal or it’s not. Abortion is either legal or it’s not. Muslim head coverings are either legal or they’re not. 

After all, if one group of people believe that a 3-month-old fetus is a parasite that has trespassed against the mother, those people are going to find little room for compromise with a group of people who think the …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE